Those who are left-handed have always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to the availability of “lefty friendly” defensive handguns. Some that are a bit more left-hand friendly have ambidextrous safety controls like my Beretta 92, but the slide and magazine release are still set for righties. There are also some pistols that have reversible controls (usually the magazine release), but require reversing the magazine release to allow for left thumb operation. Few pistols come straight out of the box with mirror image controls for equal access by left-handed and right-handed users. The Slovakian-manufactured Grand Power P11 Compact 9mm (and its siblings) from Eagle Imports is one such handgun that has totally equal access.
The Grand Power series of pistols is an interesting amalgam of modern pistol design. It starts with a CNC-machined steel chassis that is enclosed by an ergonomic polymer frame for strength, comfort, and control. There is built-in Picatinny railing at the front of the receiver for mounting lights and/or laser sights. The steel slide is finished “black” according to the product info and has cocking serrations front and rear.
The operating system is where things get a bit interesting. Initially, I thought that the Grand Power was merely a minor variation of the CZ-75 design—and it is, in part. The fire control system is traditional Double Action/Single Action like the CZ-75, and, like the CZ, there is no de-cocking lever or de-cocking safety arrangement that one finds on the SIG or Beretta pistols. There is, however, a manually operated ambidextrous safety similar in function to the 1911 pistol design. This means that, if desired, the hammer can be cocked with a round in the chamber, and the safety applied for “cocked and locked” single-action 1911-style carry. Note that unlike an actual 1911 pistol, there is no grip safety.
After firing the first shot using the long double-action trigger pull, the slide will cock the exposed rowel hammer for each subsequent shot in the single-action mode. If one wants to return the Grand Power to double-action trigger operation, the cocked hammer must be lowered by the thumb after pulling the trigger to release it. This is the same procedure used to return a 1911 to a “hammer down” position. Always make sure this or any handgun is pointed in a safe direction when clearing it and making it safe or returning it to the double-action mode. The manual safety cannot be applied while the Grand Power is in double-action mode.
I mentioned that at first glance, the Grand Power appears to be based on the CZ-75, and its control system is. But what isn’t CZ-75 is its actual operating system, which takes its design from several other pistols. The Grand Power utilizes a rotating barrel action instead of the Browning tilt-barrel action. The rotating barrel design was utilized most recently in the Beretta 8000 Cougar Pistol, which is now being manufactured by Stoeger. Another portion of the operating system that has been borrowed from another design is its dual takedown latches, which are “Glock” in style and function.
The rotating barrel design helps to mitigate recoil in the form of reducing muzzle rise. I found this reduction to be a reality, rather than just advertising hype, which is helpful in a pistol that weighs only 22.8 ounces.
I went to the range with three different types of ammo for testing: some old Winchester 124-grain ball ammo as well as some fresh SIG Sauer Elite Performance 115-grain ball and 124-grain V-Crown JHP defensive ammo (www.sigsauer.com).
The Grand Power comes with two 12-round blued-steel magazines. The magazines have a contoured polymer baseplate that also serves as a pinky rest. The magazines “free-fall” smoothly when ejected with either push-button release.
I started out using up the old Winchester ball ammo at 30 feet. The double-action trigger pull for the first shot is smooth and easily managed, while the single-action is crisp with a bit of takeup. Pull weight is about 12 pounds in double action and 6 in single action.
The Grand Power’s rotating barrel system and prominent 3-dot combat sights made it easy to shoot very tight groups. The first 11-shot group measured 2 inches and landed directly to the point of aim.
After cycling several magazines of ammo using the SIG Elite FMJ practice loads, I took the Grand Power back to the 100-yard mark. I loaded up with five rounds of the V-Crown defensive ammo and, using a two-hand standing position and firing single action, I was able to drop all five rounds into the silhouette with four of the five rounds landing in the center of the target. Excellent performance from a gun with a 3.3-inch barrel, which shows the precision used in building the Grand Power series of pistols.
I ran the V-Crown ammo over the chronograph. Published muzzle velocity from SIG for a full-sized gun using this load is 1165 feet per second. The Grand Power turned in a respectable average for five shots of 1071 feet per second, with a resultant 316 foot-pounds of energy. Not bad at all.
I REALLY liked the Grand Power, although I was not sure about it at first. Not only do the ambidextrous controls make it a snap for left-handed shooters to use, it would also be a great off-duty cop gun—especially during “weak hand only” qualification phases. The contoured slide and low-profile controls make it ideal for concealed carry, while the capability of mounting a light makes it an ideal home-defense pistol as well. Price is around $530. The Grand Power series has variants available in .40, .45 ACP, and 10mm. For more information go to: www.eagleimports.com.